Beware of Black Friday and Cyber Monday Scams: How to Avoid Falling Victim

November 22nd · 11 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

Staying safe this holiday season

As the holiday season approaches, the spirit of giving fills the air, and our thoughts turn to finding the perfect gift for our loved ones. Despite the joy and festivities, there's one hidden danger that we all need to be aware of: the potential risks of online shopping during the upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday frenzy.

| In 2021, over 400,000 people lost $392 million to online shopping scams

These two shopping extravaganzas have earned a reputation for attracting not only eager shoppers but also opportunistic scammers and cybercriminals. In this article, we'll delve into the crucial topic of protecting your finances and personal information while navigating the online shopping landscape this holiday season.

As we explore the various scams that pose a threat during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a critical step to take to protect yourself is ensuring your digital defenses are robust. Using trusted security software like Guardio before making any online purchases adds an extra layer of security to your virtual shopping experience. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves - Grab your shopping cart, and let’s dive in!

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Black Friday and Cyber Monday scams

While the holiday season is undoubtedly a time of celebration and generosity, it's also a time when scammers are working overtime. Their goal? To steal your cash or personal information that will later be sold on the dark web - or, even worse, be used for identity theft. The worst part is that they'll stop at nothing to achieve it. But why is there a surge scams during the holidays? There are a few reasons.

The hustle and bustle of holiday preparations, not to mention an overwhelming amount of online ads and crazy sales, can lead us to lower our guard, allowing scammers to take advantage of us. Cybercriminals are well aware of this weakness and are eager to seize the opportunity. They employ a slew of tactics to reel in unsuspecting shoppers, looking to obtain everything from credit card details to bank account numbers, phone contacts, social media profiles, and email addresses.

So, what are some of the most notorious scams that rear their ugly heads on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? In the following sections, we'll dive into different types of scams to help you stay safe and enjoy your holiday shopping experience.

Fake website scams

Fake websites are basically cleverly crafted sites that masquerade legit sources. Rather than delivering a service, information, or anything else you would expect, fake websites are a way for cybercriminals to deceive rather than deliver. The scammer will set up the site using stolen logos and branding from a real company. They may even create an exact replica of the original site. Although, the fake site will usually have a slightly different web address - it's important to pay close attention to the URL when shopping online.

So when you’re window shopping for Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, take the time to ensure you're on a legitimate website - before making the purchase. Check for misspellings in the URL and be wary of sites that don't have SSL certificates (look for "HTTPS" in the address bar). If you're unsure about a particular website, contact the company’s customer service before making a purchase.

Fake vs legit online shopping sites

Holiday phishing scams

We’ve written about phishing scams before, but the holidays give these frauds a spiked eggnog kick. As a refresher, a phishing scam is an attempt by a scammer to impersonate a legitimate organization via email, ads, or text messages in order to lure you into giving them credit card details, personal information, or even access to your device.

The email, text, or ad will usually be accompanied by a tone of urgency, like "Your account has been hacked!" or "We need your credit card information to complete your order." The scammers' objective is for you to click on a link or attachment in the message that would infect your computer with malware or direct you to a fake website.

Avoid phishing scam

A golden rule to remember is to never click on links or open attachments in unsolicited emails or texts. These messages might lead you into the trap of phishing websites. If you ever doubt the authenticity of a message, don't hesitate to reach out to the company's customer service for clarification. It's important to remember that reputable businesses will never ask for your personal or financial information via email or text.

To add an extra layer of security and peace of mind, consider having online security tools like Guardio on your side. Guardio's online security software serves as a constant watchdog, immediately notifying you if you receive a phishing email or text. Plus, it goes the extra mile by blocking dangerous links, ensuring that you stay safe while navigating the vast online environment. With Guardio by your side, you can browse the web with confidence, knowing that your digital well-being is in good hands.

Are you ready for the holiday season?

Shop safely knowing you have Guardio by your side!

Fake charity scams

With the holiday season comes a spirit of giving that often makes us want to help, give, and change the world for the better. It’s a time when we have a strong desire to support charitable causes. Unfortunately, scammers are well aware of that, and their tactics during this season are particularly heinous.

The fake charity scam is a heartless scheme where fraudsters take advantage of people’s wanting to help and give. They create counterfeit websites or donation pages that mimic the appearance of legitimate charities. They might even use the names of well-known organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army or craft new names that sound eerily similar to established charities. Then they shamelessly reach out, soliciting donations on their phony platforms, but instead of supporting any noble cause, they pocket the money for themselves.

Donating to charitable causes is both honorable and generous, but you need to protect yourself from falling prey to this cruel deception. Donate only to well-known charities with which you have a familiar and trusted history. If you come across a charity you're uncertain about, take a moment to research it thoroughly before donating. Additionally, make sure your spidey senses are on and exercise caution when you encounter unsolicited emails or social media posts requesting donations, especially during the holiday season. Remember, your desire to help others is commendable; just ensure that your contributions go where they're genuinely needed.

Coupon scams

Coupon scams are the crafty handiwork of cybercriminals who devise bogus coupons and discount codes designed to mimic the ones offered by trusted companies. These phony deals are then distributed on social media, websites, or even into your email inbox, just when you're eager to snag the best bargains.

Imagine this: You excitedly attempt to redeem one of these seemingly incredible coupons, only to discover that it's either expired or, worse, never actually existed in the first place. And that's not the extent of it; some scammers take it a step further by establishing fake websites that bear a striking resemblance to legitimate retailers. They entice you with irresistible discounts, harvest your payment information, and vanish into the digital abis, leaving unsuspecting shoppers in the dust.

BBB coupon scam

To navigate the enticing world of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals with confidence, consider this advice: rely solely on coupons and discount codes from sources you know and trust, like the retailer's official website or their email newsletters. Before you begin your quest for incredible savings during these mega-shopping events, be sure to scrutinize the fine print to ensure that the deal you're pursuing is genuine and valid. After all, the thrill of securing a fantastic discount should be genuine and free from the shadows of scams.

Fake delivery notification scams

Picture this: You're eagerly anticipating the arrival of your Black Friday and Cyber Monday purchases. During the excitement, you receive an email or text message that appears to be from a well-known delivery company like UPS, FedEx, or DHL. The message informs you that a package is waiting for you, and it even provides a convenient link to track your shipment. But here's the twist: that seemingly innocent link leads you straight into the clutches of a fake website designed to snatch your personal information.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know our number one rule - DON’T CLICK THAT LINK! Never click on links in unsolicited emails or texts that claim to be from a delivery company, especially during the hustle and bustle of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We’ve all been there, eagerly anticipating our Martha Stewert cookbook - If you're eagerly waiting for a package, take matters into your own hands by visiting the official website of the delivery company and entering the tracking number yourself.

Gift card scams

A close relative of the coupon scam is a particularly insidious scheme – the gift card scam. Here's how it works: scammers create a counterfeit website that bears a striking resemblance to a trusted retailer like Amazon or Walmart. To lure in unsuspecting shoppers, they flood social media and other websites with enticing ads, promising significant discounts on popular items if you buy a gift card from their site.

giftcard scam

The catch? These fraudulent gift cards are nothing but empty promises, leaving you with a loss of the money you thought you were saving. To protect yourself and your holiday shopping budget during these high-stakes shopping events, stick to purchasing gift cards exclusively from the retailer's official online store or in person at their physical locations. Avoid the temptation of third-party websites, even if they claim to offer discounted cards.

Non-delivery scam

Beware of deals that appear too good to be true during the excitement of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as they often turn out to be just that - too good to be true. When you make online purchases during these shopping events, it's typically standard to receive an order confirmation complete with a tracking number.

However, in this scam, that expected confirmation never lands in your inbox, and the package you eagerly anticipated remains a no-show. If you try to address the issue with the seller, you'll find that they've mysteriously vanished into thin air, leaving you with a frustrating and disappointing shopping experience - and a loss of cash.

Fake order scams

This is a spin on the non-delivery scam. It pretty much plays out the same, the only difference is that you actually do get a confirmation number, making your purchase seem legit. But you never receive the product-and your credit card is charged. Ouch.

Order confirmation from xxx

During the festive holiday season, it's important to remain watchful for these common scams. It’s easy to get caught in the holiday spirit, but if you ever have doubts about a website or offer, do your research to verify its legitimacy. Always keep in mind to never disclose your personal or financial information to unfamiliar sources.

How to stay safe this holiday season

As the holiday shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday draws near, it's essential to protect yourself from the common scams that tend to surface during these times. Here are some easy tips to ensure your online safety:

1 . Gift cards from trusted sources: Purchase gift cards only from the official websites of reputable retailers or in person at their physical stores. Avoid third-party websites, even if they promise discounts.

2. Read reviews: Before making any online purchases, take the time to research the website or company. It's a simple step that can save you from potential scams.

3. Protect your payment information: Don't enter your credit card details on unfamiliar websites. Stick to shopping on websites you know and trust, ensuring your financial information remains secure.

4. Be wary of extensions: Malicious browser extensions can pose a significant risk to your online security. Online security tools can block these extensions and keep you safe - more on that in tip #7.

5. Beware of unwanted notifications: Annoying notifications and popups can be more than just a nuisance; they can be a sign of malware. Be wary of any popups that simply won’t go away, even after you close them - because that’s a definite sign that something’s up. Follow this guide to remove them, or jump to tip #7.

6. Use caution with emails and texts: Never click on links in unsolicited emails or texts. When expecting a package, visit the company's website and enter the tracking number yourself.

7. Use security tools: Holiday scams are becoming increasingly sophisticated and challenging to detect, making it crucial to have a reliable online tool to keep you protected. Enter - Guardio, a secure browser extension and mobile app that ensures your online safety. Not only does it block hazardous websites, but it also provides instant alerts in case you inadvertently stumble upon a holiday-related scam while navigating the web.

The holidays are a time to spend with family and have fun, don’t let scammers ruin them for you. Guardio’s security tool gives you the peace of mind you need whenever you're online.

  • 24/7 scam protection.

  • Blocks fake shopping websites and phishing scams with malicious links.

  • Cross-platform protection (up to 5 devices).

  • Scans your device for malware.

  • Real-time identity theft protection.

  • Family protection (up to 5 family members)

The bottom line

As the holiday season approaches, so does the potential danger of online shopping during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These shopping events attract not only enthusiastic shoppers but also opportunistic scammers. To stay secure, guard your financial information and be cautious about fake websites and gift card schemes.

To bolster your defenses, think of Guardio as your trusty online sidekick, ready to shield you from cyber threats. It acts as your online guardian, offering real-time alerts and blocking risky websites, ensuring a safe online experience. With these tips and Guardio by your side, you can shop with confidence during the holiday season, knowing your digital well-being is protected.

As you gear up for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, remember to stay safe and enjoy the holidays. Happy shopping!

Are you ready for the holiday season?

Shop safely knowing you have Guardio by your side!

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